Santorum Focuses on Reaching Out to Women; Adviser Says They Are a ‘MacGyver Campaign’

Feb 29, 2012 12:05am

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Although when he walked on the stage the race here had yet to be called for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum gave an address that seemed to focus on some of the mistakes he has made over the past week.

“A  month ago they didn’t know who we are, but they do now,” Santorum said,  flanked by his wife, eldest daughter Elizabeth, and son John. ”We came to the backyard of one of my opponents, in a race where people said, ‘You know, just ignore it, you’re going to have no chance here.’ And the people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I have to say is, ‘I love you back.’”

The crowd was enthusiastic, with one man shouting, “I love you,” but there was a sad tone in the air that began even before they took the stage, as the theme song to the “The Natural” played.

Santorum mentioned his 93-year-old mother, something he hasn’t in previous speeches, and he told the audience in what seemed to be a pitch to female voters who might feel put off by some of his previous comments about women in the workplace, that his mother made more money than his father.

“She was someone who did get a job in the 1930s and was a nurse, and worked full time. She continued to work through my childhood years,” Santorum said to the crowd that was heavy on families with young children. “She balanced time working different schedules. A professional who made more money than her husband.”

Santorum’s mother was a nurse and his father was a psychologist for the Veteran’s Administration.

The former Pennsylvania senator also touted his wife’s work experience, saying she was a “professional” as well, and thanked his daughter, Elizabeth, who has been on the campaign trail with him since the early days in Iowa.

“[Karen] worked as a nurse, but after we got married, she decided to walk away, yet didn’t quit working. She was a mother, and also wrote two books,” Santorum said, in what also seemed to be an appeal to female voters.

He spent most of his speech repeating the themes he does on the stump, including his mention of the Declaration of Independence, but this evening there was a twist on that, too.

“The men and women who signed that declaration wrote the final phrase, ‘We pledge to each other our lives, our fortune, and our sacred honor,” Santorum said.

There were no women who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Longtime Santorum strategist John Brabender said it wasn’t a direct appeal, but more about mentioning and thanking other people in the candidate’s life besides his grandfather, who Santorum consistently talks about the trail.  Brabender did acknowledge they have to “struggle with misperceptions” and said that is “something we will always be doing.”

Brabender said they have won at least five districts here and tried to spin the loss that Santorum may come out of Romney’s home state as the victor of the popular vote.

He said the campaign is “much better organized” than it has ever have before, but he called it the “MacGyver campaign,” a reference to the TV series in which the main character is a special agent who is constantly able to create complex devices out of everyday objects.

“Every pundit, every opponent acknowledges the Santorum campaign does more with less,” Brabender said. “And we are doing pretty darn well so far.”

After the speech, Brabender told reporters they wouldn’t call on Newt Gingrich to drop out of the race, but did urge “conservatives and tea party supporters” to “unify” to “stop a moderate like Mitt Romney.”

During his speech, Santorum hardly mentioned his rival, Romney, who won his home state and received a phone call from Santorum conceding before he even took the stage. The call was made when Santorum was away from his advisers and just sitting with his family before he took the stage.

“I just congratulated him, he had a very good night,” Santorum told reporters about the phone call.

Despite the loss — a win in Romney’s home state would have been devastating — he said he “feels great.”

“This was going to be Romney’s night,” Santorum told reporters while greeting supporters on the ropeline. “The question was going to be how big? And it wasn’t very big. It is a two-person race right now. We are doing excellently.”

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